Italian Astana rider Fabio Aru took over as leader of the Giro d’Italia from crash victim Alberto Contador on Friday after the rain-hit 13th stage was won by Sacha Modolo.
Italian Modolo hung on in a sprint finish on his home stage to edge countrymen Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani at Jesolo.
A mass crash less than 5km from the line saw long time race leader Contador fall off his bike and the 40 seconds dropped on Aru saw the pink jersey handed to the Italian by 19secs.
Australian Richie Porte also took a tumble and lost over two minutes and is now well down the rankings and out of contention at nearly six minutes off the pace.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 22, 2015
Aru, who finished third overall last year, takes the leader’s jersey for the first time in his career.
“It’s a great feeling to finally wear the pink jersey,” said Aru. “I’ve waited since the beginning of the race to finally take the lead and now I can look forward to the time-trial.
“It was very hard, in bad weather, on a route that was flat but with lots of roundabouts and other paraphernalia. I was always at the front, in a good position to avoid possible falls, and what happened, happened.
“Now I’m just thinking of tomorrow. It is going to be a very important stage. I will give it everything. But the Giro ends next Sunday in Milan, not before.”
On a day of steady rain and run over 147km of flat racing, a trio of Italian Marco Frapporti, Frenchman Jerome Pineau and German Rick Zabel opened up an escape before being reeled in towards the finale.
The accident then played havoc with the chances of several contenders, before the rest of the pack raced for home.
It then came down to a long sprint finish that Modolo won by half a bike length after being led in by two of his Lampre team-mates.
“Finally I’ve won a stage, my great companion, colleague and friend, Max Richeze, gave me the perfect lead-out, and I just finished off the work of my team,” said Modolo.
“At Fiuggi, I was disappointed with myself. At Forli the breakaway made it so I didn’t get the chance to sprint, so it was destiny that I would win my home stage.
Contador lost leader’s jersey at a grand tour for first time in his career, but he can take back 19sec, and more, in tomorrow’s TT #Giro
— Neal Rogers (@nealrogers) May 22, 2015
“I have so many friends standing at the barriers from San Vendemiano, my home village, that this experience is unforgettable.”
Contador was grimacing as he crossed the line, perhaps in frustration, although there were obvious concerns he may have reinjured the shoulder he dislocated on stage six.
Contador said: “I don’t think I lost too much but of course those seconds cost a lot to get back. The thing that worries me most is my injury. The shoulder hurts, but I want to think positively.”
Today will feature a tough 59.4km time-trial from Treviso to Valdobbiadene and is guaranteed to shake up the overall standings and give Contador a chance to recover his lost time.
Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin wins rainy 11th stage of the Giro d'Italia in Imola, as Alberto Contador retains the overall leader's pink jersey.
Spain’s Alberto Contador retained the lead of the Giro d’Italia after Wednesday’s 11th stage won by the Katusha team’s Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin.
Zakarin biked in to victory alone after a long, solo breakaway on the 153km ride from Forli to Imola.
Tinkoff’s Contador, whose goal is to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and the Tour de France in the same season, held on to the leader’s pink jersey, with a slender three seconds advantage over chief rival Astana’s Fabio Aru.
Contador, who launched an unsuccessful attack, admitted it had been a tough day in the saddle.
— Giro d’Italia (@giroditalia) May 20, 2015
Stage winner Zakarin, the shock Tour de Romandie winner last month, broke away from an escape group 23km from home.
With three laps of the Imola motor track to finish off the stage, the 25-year-old Zakarin held off the advances of the chasing pack led by Australian Simon Gerrans, eventually finishing 53sec clear of a sextet led by Colombian Carlos Betancur.
Thursday’s 12th stage from Imola to Vicenza is a gruelling 190km ride, with the final 60km over very hilly terrain, with some very demanding climbs and an uphill finish on the final ramp.